Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Letter From Sarge

As I was sorting through emails and trying to answer what I could as I am behind...I came across this one and wanted to answer as well as post with his permission.
"Hi. A buddy of  mine forwarded me your blog site and I have to say I like it. I wondered if it would be more for the ladies than for Vets, but found your blog to be fair  to us men. I have been reading your blog for a while now cause it helps me to sorta understand my wife. I am a SSGT, in my third deployment here in Iraq. I don't think I have to explain to you the issues I am having because I think you would get it. My wife is constantly pushing me on talking to her and there are just some things I can't tell her. I want to but when I feel I can open up, I close up. I don't know. When I want to, I cant. When I cant, she gets mean mouthed and pissed. Its like I cant win. She seems disappointed in me as a man and gives me hell because I cant take her to dinner or go see a movie while I was home. I want to and man do I wish she would understand. Its not like I dont try. I do take medications for anxiety but still cant shake the pain, visions or smells. It just sticks with you you know? The more you wash, the more it just stains you.  I fear being on the outside in the world even though I know its not gonna harm me. There are days where I wish I could turn it off but it never goes away. I don't want to lose her because she has been there for me and we were childhood sweethearts. I want to give her the moon but just the things she is asking is so difficult. I am almost out of here and panicking because I know she is expecting all of me to come home.  I made it through the first deployment without any probs, just the second one had some serious shit happen. This time I am living a lie and just trying my best. I try to block it all out the second time and ended up in the bottle. I don't drink anymore and it seemed like I just wanted to run away, but its easier to volunteer for deployment again than deal with the shit back home. Oh and I am a Reservist like your husband. Don't think many give us Reserve guys much notice. Anything you can throw my way for a Veteran coming home that might could help me and her? She says she is not upset with me, she just doesn't understand. Shes saying Im a hero but I am not and dont want to be called that. Thanks for supporting us and for writing. You say you don't know much or not a professional but you know more than some of these quacks I have been seeing I think. I have been reading the past six months and enjoy the topics you choose. Sometimes its like you are talking bout me and my wife. Damn shame we serve our country and end up in the nuthouse. If you don't answer this, its totally cool. Oh its cool to post as I see you sometimes answer at once with the mistress box. Thanks for raising the awareness USM. You got quite a following of soldiers over here who read. Your Friend in the damn desert again. SSGT Hi***"

Dearest SSGT Hi***,

I am most definitely answering your email and really appreciated your kind words as well as your service. I wanted to answer this and post this because I think this will help other spouses who are probably in the same boat as your wife. While you gave me permission, I blocked parts of your name just for OPSEC purposes and for your privacy.

First off, you know I am no professional and never claimed to be. Some days I feel like the blind leading the blind here! So the only advice I can give you is from my point of view as a spouse, caregiver to my husband and as a woman in general. So here's the deal:

First off, I know she isn't disappointed in you as a man. Don't ever think that. I can bet you that she is probably hurting a lot more than you are as some of your emotions are bottled up and numb right now. She is probably confused, angry, resentful and sad because each time you deployed...a little less came back home each time to her. She more than likely doesn't know what's going on with you or how to help you, and well, that scares the hell out of us. When spouses get pushed away, I know I feel like the world is crumbling apart and I don't know how to save my husband. The best thing my husband ever did....was talk to me about some things that he experienced over there. While I still maintain that it's really not that important for the spouse to know what all goes on over there in the sandbox, and they have to understand that you guys just don't want to talk about it; it does help in the end with the so many "why" questions we have. Talking with her about a few things will allow her to understand why you feel the way you do. I do understand though why you don't want to or feel like you can open up to her, but you got to try. It took four years for my husband to finally tell me one specific and horrific thing in Iraq that he had been through. I am telling you Sir, it was like a light went on and it was " that explains it!". Before that? Bits and pieces. He did it at his own pace and I respected that. You will need to do the same thing and at the rate you feel comfortable with.

When you get home, do try to get more help. I don't have to tell you how important it is to seek help as it seems you already have since you are on medication. Medications just aren't enough though. However, talking to someone such as a therapist or counselor can help ease up some of these issues you are having. See if you two can get into therapy together. Not necessarily marriage counseling, but PTSD couples therapy. While they do not have anything here locally for us, I do know that NAMI was starting some military groups that included such counseling after talking with them. Sure, I hate going to these things. I hate rehashing the same stuff over and over I know that you are probably giving the mistress the ol' eye rolling! However, I find that when my husband can release some of his frustrations, thoughts and feelings on someone who does understand like his Vet Center Therapist (who is also a fellow war veteran and therapist), he is able to communicate a little better with me.

I don't really think, in fairness to your spouse, that she understands fully what PTSD is and all the issues that go with it. That can be fixed through education and support. Send her the link to the Wounded Warrior Wives which is just that. It's online and is a wonderful resource for wounded warrior spouses. There are several resources on here in the tab resource as you copy them, send them to her in an email and then send her some mushy lovey dovey words to go along with it. To be fair to her also, what you may be interpreting as being pushy, may simply be her way of worrying about you and trying to understand what you are going through. In fairness to you, I can see why this would put you off. I may understand some of the time because I fought back and educated myself on the subjects but, to tell you the truth though, the Mistress still has her days and I am still learning as we go along. There are going to be days like that, probably each week for us and the same will apply to you. It just takes time to get settled in. When you get the chance, take a notepad and sit down and make a list of some "to do" things when you get home. Be realistic. Be honest. What do YOU want to happen when you get home? What do YOU think you are capable of doing when you get back? Getting back on that high horse of regular civilian life sure is a jolt to the ol' system I know! I think it's also an issue that goes unnoticed with our Reserve and Guard components as you said.

When you get a chance, write out what you fear...maybe things that set you off. You know more than anyone what makes you tick. If you fear of talking with her, place that on there. Why are you afraid? When she gets angry, or mean mouthed as you call it, place that on there as well. If you need space, put it on there. If you need to walk away when things get heavy, many spouses have told me they use time outs or code words to walk away and when things calm down...they come back and talk. Maybe it won't fix everything, but have her do the same thing/list at home. When you get together back at home, make some time and swap lists. No fighting, no arguing, no throwing stones...just swap lists. I think you both would be sincerely surprised at how much communication can make living with PTSD easier.

While making that list, you will have to compromise some just as she will. You can't live life behind closed doors and you know that. Try to think of some things that you CAN do within your boundaries. Include those on your "list". Carefully read each of her items and what she would like. Is there a way to make yourself some goals to get to those items that she needs at your own pace? Set some smaller steps before you take the bigger jumps. Your spouse has been there since childhood, so ya'll must have been through a ton. Ups, downs and probably even sideways. This is going to be just another hurdle you guys will go over.

I know going out is hard on my husband. I used to have fantasies that really involved around a cute cabana boy, a pool man in speedos, a pool over looking the island water and landscape, with the never ending strawberry margarita! Now.....that fantasy just includes actually getting to make love to my husband and getting to go out on a date with him! I know in my mind those days are over, BUT a small part of me is resentful, hurt and disappointed. I miss those days most of all. Looking back now? It wasn't the going out part, it was just the time spent together and the attention my husband gave me. Not the overpriced dinner in some chain restaurant! She may be feeling all of that, and that's OK to feel that way so don't ever blame her for that.

In all of this, my husband and I have started to begin to talk about our feelings. It's been almost five years this September. So it may take a while. I accept his feelings and he accepts mine. Some days Sir, that's all I need to keep me going. The only way my husband will venture out is on less busier days like through the week, at earlier times with the seniors (ps the food is always better too) or late lunch. Trust me, this is a very very rare occasion! To be honest with you, I could do without going out. It's expensive and I feel like I have to compete with his constant nervous scanning of the perimeter and the focus isn't there. You know what I would want and be thrilled with? Attention. I crave it. I want it like a dieting lady standing in front of a chocolate store. I want that few moments of "just me" focus from my husband. I want to be loved like crazy, shown appreciation and that you care. We know that you guys love us, but sometimes you just get so wrapped up in everything else, we feel we get left behind.

As I told another Veteran on Facebook, I bet if you came home and wowed her with a rental movie (hey pointer here, chic flics will get you some nice points-don't choose a military related or testosterone laced films that you would like), no kids (if you have them-make arrangements with the family or someone to watch them for a while), get her absolute favorite candy or icecream, pop some popcorn and settle in on the couch. Take that small time together and chill out. Show her the attention she needs like telling her how much you love her, or how much you love the smell of her hair...something along those lines. Romance her. It doesn't need to cost a fortune or go to a lot of's the little things. Leave her hidden notes she will find around the house in the least expected places. Wake up and pack her lunch for work with a cute note in there, do the dishes and leave an I love you note on the drain. Run her a hot bath with bubbles when you have had a very bad day and been hard to deal with. Light some candles. Cook supper one night, even if its grilled cheese and canned soup. My hubby ordered pizza the other night because I had a rotten day dealing with all the idiots in various places and had a migraine. I was so very appreciative of just that little thought. On to the more intimate things, if meds are causing some issues in the love making department...there are other ways to enjoy intimate moments than just sex. Explore and learn new things. Try and remember important dates. Automatically come home and program them in your phone.

Talk to her. I truly believe if you have been together this long, nothing will make her love you any different. Yes, I understand your reasoning behind not thinking of yourself as a hero. She however, does and you need to acknowledge that fact. She would think of you as her hero no matter where you went, no matter the war, and most definitely whatever you did or didn't do. So don't argue with her when she calls you that and take it as you are her hero no matter what. You were her hero before you went to war darlin'! Learn that she will have bad days just like you do. Know that she has lost just as much as you have; we are all in different stages of grieving I think. The fact that you don't want to lose her and acknowledge her suffering is a great step forward. Make sure you keep taking those steps. She will be forever your number one fan, your advocate, the coach in your corner rooting you on. Don't lose sight of that. If you guys try something, and it doesn't work....then get back up, dust each other off and keep on going. However, in all of this....If you can't help yourself, you can't expect her to help you either. You got to allow her to be a part of this new life. Make sure you include her and not push her away.

Running away doesn't solve anything as I am sure you realize deep down. You realized that the bottle wasn't going to drown it or flush it why run to the middle of the desert to get away from home? While I am sure your volunteering was an honorable and wonderful thing to do, is it really helping you or making it worse? On your list, set some goals and some restrictions on your list. Coming home can be very bombarding like it was in our case. Everyone wanted to see the soldier ASAP and I swear, we didn't get much time together right off the gate. Limit family and space it out. Don't leave this up to your wife to do all the explaining to the family, especially if its yours. Often times, I feel like I am the one who has to make all the excuses, all the explanations and get the brunt of " why doesn't he?". Its all my husband and while I try to help and deal with his tolerance level, I end up with everyone mad at me! This can cause friction. It's ok to say "you know what, I just need some time to get adjusted. Let me have this time and I promise I will have a visit with you". They don't understand that Reserve/Guard components do not get down time. There is no time to decompress from military life. Most of the time, one minute you are in the desert, then stateside, and BOOM you are home. Suddenly you are yanked out of that comfort zone. Hell, I think honestly, I would be freaked out myself! Try to remember that your wife and family only know you as who you were and not who you are now. We as the family expect everything to be normal, but it's not. They need to be educated, so there is less expectations on you to meet.

I promise you if you talk to her and let her know what's going on...let her in just a little, it will be easier. You wrote to me all the way from Iraq, and that shows you care and love her enough to do so. So take what you just wrote me, and turn it towards her way. I think you would be surprised just how resilient we have become while you guys and gals have been gone, and how much strength we have gained through deployment. I hope this helps you a little. Again, no professional but just speaking as a woman who knows what your wife is going through. Keep your chin up, and don't let PTSD take over. You can't fight it alone, so allow your spouse and even your family to help you if you feel comfortable. It's not going to cure it, it's not going to take it all away...but having that support system will help you through.

I sincerely appreciate your serving our country and pray you come home safely. I know you may not want to hear it, but I really do. I know some of what you all have had to do over there from talking with Vets and the emails and how scary coming home can be. I don't have all the answers but I am trying to share what I have learned so it helps others on both sides of the fence. I am so thrilled to know there are soldiers over there reading and I am deeply honored my little blog has reached that far across the world. Anytime I can lend a friendly ear, or give you a gentle nudge email is always open! I promise, I really don't think you will end up in a nuthouse!

Still Fighting Here At Home,

1 comment:

  1. Hey there. Its Sarge. Its cool you posted and thanks for removing my name didn't think about it. Thank you for taking the time and talking with me. I feel better and am making my list on my down time. I talked to my wife and sent her your post. She is also going to make a list. She said no fighting, no pointing fingers, just swapping like you said. I know you aren't professional and would not have asked for help if I did not think you would have something to say. Seriously you got a knack for this, because you can show us Vets what we are missing out on when our wives cant tell us whats going on. Never thought about doing the things you mentioned but already spoke to my mother and told her I needed time when I got home. She doesnt understand, but she accepted my wishes. I was surprised and figured she would give me hell. I am planning on something really nice for my wife with some friends help. Cant tell you here cause she might read it ya know? I want to try and I know its not easy. I figure all you have been through, I dont want my wife to go through all this. Thanks so much for the advice and help. It does help me. I am excited bout coming home and got me a plan together. My wife is checking around for therapists. She thinks I knocked my head when I called and talked with her on getting more help but I can tell shes real proud of me. She really listened to what I had to say and told her that when I got home, I wanted to talk about some things. She said she would always listen to me. I didnt think about being her hero before war and you are right. She said I was her hero since 3rd grade. I dont think I can tell her all but I will tell her some. Maybe she will understand more like you said. Thanks Mistress. I owe you. You have my email now, dont be afraid to use it. Your husband is a lucky man and I know he sure is proud of you. See you soon back in the US. Coming home soon. SSGT H


I Would Love to Hear From Ya'll!